In Your Child’s School
Elementary Schools: K – Grade 8
A Guide for Parents and Guardians
The Toronto District School Board believes that education is
a shared responsibility among
parents, the community, students, staff and the Board,
and that by working together we all contribute to
the improvement of our schools
and to the achievement of our students.
2004 - 2005
Introduction .................................................................................... 3
Why Get Involved With Your Child’s School ................................................ 3
Parents And Teachers Working Together.................................................... 4
The Parent Teacher Interview ................................................................ 5
Parents, Students and Homework ........................................................... 6
If You Have A Concern ......................................................................... 7
Involvement in Your School Council ......................................................... 8
If You Wish To Volunteer In Your School .................................................... 10
Parent’s Role In The Special Education Process ........................................... 11
If You Need An Interpreter .................................................................... 12
Finding Out More About The School System ............................................... 13
Working together to help children become successful learners is an important
responsibility for both parents and schools. The purpose of this handbook is to provide
parents of children in elementary schools of the TDSB with a guide to help them to
support their children’s education, by working in partnership with their schools.
The suggestions in this handbook deal with various ways in which parents can work
with their schools: from communication with their child’s teacher to helping their
children at home, to participating in the school council to improve the school, and
how to get more information about the school Board.
These suggestions are drawn from the experiences of parents and schools in the
Toronto District School Board. This handbook is aimed primarily at parents who need
additional information and support in order to help their children become more
successful in school. However we hope it will be a useful document for all parents.
A resource of this limited size can only deal briefly with the various aspects of this
important topic. We hope however that it will at least provide encouragement and
support for parents and schools of the TDSB to work together for the benefit of all
students in this diverse city.
Why Get Involved With Your Child’s School
When parents are involved in their children’s education, their children do better in
school. They have higher grades, they attend school more regularly, they complete
homework more consistently, and they behave better and are more motivated to
When the parent and the teacher have good communication and work well together,
they both help each other to do what is best for the child. The teacher understands
the child better and becomes more aware of what the student is capable of, and
what the student needs in order to be successful.
The parent becomes more informed about what the teacher expects for the student,
and will therefore be better able to support the student at home. The parent and the
teacher can identify problems affecting the student as they arise, or before they
develop into serious ones, and they can work together to solve them.
Many parents participate in school affairs beyond the classroom. When parents
participate in school events, in the school council or in other school volunteer
activities, they help to enrich the life of the school. They also help to improve the
school by providing good information and advice to the principal and staff which
helps them to do what is best for all students.
Getting involved in their child’s education is not easy for many Toronto parents. Many
parents have difficult job schedules and many important priorities in their daily lives.
This leaves them with very little time to become regularly or consistently involved in
their child’s school.
In this situation, the most important thing for parents to do is to select that kind of
involvement with their child and with the school that they can manage, and which
allows them to provide support for their students when they need it. The
responsibility of TDSB schools is to continue to provide the encouragement, support
and opportunities for parents to work with teachers and with the school.
You can help your child
to be successful at school
• praise your children and help them feel good about themselves
• re-assure your children when they encounter difficulty or failure
• talk regularly with your children about their school experiences
• encourage your children to talk with you about any problems they have with relationships
• help your children to set goals for themselves in their school work and in their home life
• help your children to organize their time so that there is a good balance between school
work, home responsibilities and their social & recreational activities
• make sure that your children complete their homework;
• read regularly to your children or have them read to you; it is a wonderful way for
parents of children of all ages to encourage reading and to enjoy discussing what they
have read together;
• communicate with your children’s teachers to keep informed of the teacher’s
expectations for the child and to resolve problems with your children
Parents and Teachers Working Together
Other than the parent, the most important influence on a child’s life is the teacher.
The teacher helps the child to get to know himself or herself and their world, to form
positive relationships, and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes that the
student will need to meet the challenges of life.
The parent provides a similar role, but within the family and the community. When
both the parent and the teacher work together as partners for the benefit of the
child, the student achieves very good results.
All teachers do not have the same level of experience in building a partnership with
parents, just as all parents do not have the same level of experience in working with
teachers and the school. However, the more teachers and parents work together, the
more skilled they become in developing good working relationships with each other.
Suggestions for Parents
• ensure that you use every available opportunity to get to know your child’s teacher and
to help the teacher to get to know you and your child better;
• find out from the teacher what is the best way for communication and contact with the
teacher and when such contact should happen;
• attend meet-the-teacher nights, parent-teacher interviews and special meetings with
the teacher that you are invited to;
• ask the teacher to explain the classroom program and expectations for the students if
you are not familiar with them;
• ensure that you inform the teacher about any special circumstances that might arise
with your child that might affect your child’s behaviour or attitude in class, e.g. change
in routines, death in the family;
• ensure that you share with the teacher any positive experiences or accomplishments
that your child has been involved with outside the school;
• focus on finding a solution when you meet with the teacher to discuss a problem with
your child, not on blaming the teacher, the child or yourself;
• offer to volunteer for a classroom activity where needed by the teacher, when you have
the time and interest;
• send a thank you note to the teacher when you experience something positive with your
child resulting from the classroom program.
• Don’t hesitate to share a good comment on your child’s work…if the teacher indicates
‘great work’ there is always space for the parent to reinforce
The Parent Teacher Interview
Parent teacher interviews in elementary schools, sometimes called parent teacher
conferences, are held twice each school year, at the end of November or early
December, and once more in March. For many parents, the parent teacher interview
may the only opportunity for the parent and teacher to meet each other to discuss
the child’s progress at school, and what can be done to help the child do better.
Teachers recognize that parents often come to the interview feeling very anxious,
and may not know what to expect from the meeting. This happens especially when
they think that their child has not been doing well at school, or has been having
problems with their behaviour. The teacher will usually try to make things as
comfortable as possible for the parent.
Most parent teacher interviews last only about fifteen minutes and there is often not
enough time to complete the discussion. Parents and teachers should therefore plan a
follow-up meeting if they agree that there are important matters to be discussed
Suggestions for Parents
• If you would like you child to join you at the interview, ask the teacher;
• In your preparation for the interview, make sure that you know what your child enjoys
about school and what he or she finds difficult.
• Ask your child to tell you if there is anything he or she wants you to discuss with the
• Make a list of the questions you want to ask the teacher and take that list with you to
• Be prepared to talk about your child’s interests outside of the school, any problems that
might affect your child’s learning or what your child likes or dislikes about school.
• Ask the teacher to tell you how your child gets along with his or her classmates.
• Talk honestly with the teacher about any problems your child is having that you observe
or that the teacher observes.
• Take notes about your discussion with the teacher to help you remember the important
things you discuss and any follow up plan which you and the teacher agree on.
• Afterwards, share the results of the conference with your child. Stress the good things
that were covered and be specific about concerns. Explain to your child any follow up
plans that were arranged.
Parents, Students and Homework
Homework provides an excellent opportunity for parents to understand the classroom
program. Homework also helps parents and teachers to work together especially to help
the child in areas which the child needs special support.
In Toronto schools, students, teachers and parents each have responsibilities in the
homework process. If you are not aware of the homework policy for your school, ask the
teacher to explain it to you.
If You Have A Concern
Praise Should Be Specific
• “I really like how you’ve been working hard to complete your homework this
• “You did a great job on your story, I like the way you described the scene at
the market and your printing is very neat and easy to read.”
• “You drew a very interesting picture for your art project. Would you like to
describe it to me?”
Suggestions for Helping with Homework
• Set up a study area in your home that is well-lit and free from unnecessary distractions.
If you are not able to provide this space regularly in your home, try to arrange for
alternate homework space in the home of a friendly neighbour whom you trust and who
might have children in the same school. Sometimes students are more motivated to
complete their homework if they are studying with a friend.
• Help your child to plan a homework schedule and get him or her to stick to it. Every
parent knows that children need to have time for other activities such as sports,
watching TV, chatting with friends, or helping out with chores. It is important to make
sure that your child knows how to leave enough time for homework.
• Motivate your child with praise. Praising your child about completed homework can
increase your child’s self-confidence and inspire your child to do his or her best work.
• Keep copies of the work your child is proud of and post it on the wall or occasionally show
it to other family members or friends who visit.
• Ask your child’s teacher for advice on how you can help your child with study skills such
as how to plan and organize their time for completing major projects; how to organize
written reports; how to study for tests; how to take notes when reading a textbook.
If you have a concern about your child’s work, behaviour, attitude or the way they are
feeling, you should speak to the teacher about it as soon as you can. Sometimes parents
have a concern about the program in the child’s classroom, or about the teacher’s
teaching methods, or about how a teacher has handled a particular situation involving a
child. Most of these concerns can be resolved after meeting with the teacher.
Sometimes the parent is not satisfied with the result of the discussion with the teacher
and wants to speak to the principal or vice principal about it. When a parent brings a
concern to the principal about a classroom program or situation involving the teacher, the
principal may do any of the following:
• advise the parent to discuss the concern directly with the teacher and resolve it at
that level, if the parent has not yet discussed it with the teacher;
• discuss the concern with the teacher and offer advice to the teacher where
necessary, or respond back to the parent with an explanation;
• meet with the teacher and parent together to resolve the concern.
Sometimes a parent has a concern that requires the involvement of other Board staff in
order to achieve a satisfactory result. For example, the principal may consult with the
superintendent of education for the family of schools or other board staff before making a
decision. This procedure is also followed where the parent brings a concern to the
principal about a school policy, procedure or incident.
In some cases, the principal determines that the concern relates to a broader school issue
which is being discussed by the school council, and may advise the parent to discuss it at
a school council meeting.
At other times, a parent brings a concern about a school or Board matter directly to the
superintendent of education, or the Director of Education or the school trustee or the
Chair of the board who is also a trustee. In this case, the the Board official or the trustee
may direct the parent back to the principal or may refer the matter to the superintendent
of education or to other Board staff depending on the issue.
Involvement In Your School Council
Each school is required to have a school council. The council is an advisory committee
made up of the principal, parents, teachers, support staff, students (secondary schools)
and community members. The purpose of the school council is to provide a regular
opportunity for its members to discuss how to make the school a better place of learning
Making the school a better place for students means discussing just about everything
about a school: what students need in order to be successful; the learning goals of the
school; the programs and activities that support students at school; the facilities and
resources that are available to help students and families; and of course ways of involving
all parents in the life of the school. The council does not deal with personnel matters
such as hiring and release of staff, nor does it deal with personal matters of individual
students, staff or parents.
The principal plays an important role in the council, because the principal brings
important information about the school that the school council needs in order to play its
advisory role effectively. The principal also provides guidance and support to the council
so that it can work efficiently.
Similarly, the school council plays an important role in the school because it provides the
principal with the opinions and advice of parents to help the principal and staff to make
school decisions that reflect the interests of the community as well as the needs of the
Some school councils often find it difficult to involve more parents in their activities. This
makes it difficult for the council to work well. As an individual parent, you can become
more involved in your school council and therefore help your council to become more
If You Wish To Volunteer In The School
Suggestions for Parents
• Make sure that you have the name and telephone number of the Chair of your school
council. The school council Chair is a parent of a child enrolled in the school who has
been elected by other parents in the school. Some school council Chairs are willing to
share their e-mail addresses with other parents in order to encourage communication;
• if you are not able to attend meetings of the council, you should try to communicate
directly with the Chair whenever you have an important concern or suggestion to
make which relates to the business of the council; If you cannot reach the Chair, give
the information to another school council member or to the principal;
• let the principal know that you are interested in participating in the council and ask
for suggestions as to how you might become involved. Do the same with the school
• attend meetings of the school council. School councils are required to have at least 4
public meetings per year, which must be open to all parents in the school. An
effective school council will plan its dates of public meetings for the whole year and
inform all parents of these dates. If you don’t know the dates of school council
meetings, phone the school office to get the schedule of meetings;
• most school councils will set the agenda for meetings in advance. Some will inform all
parents of the agenda before the meeting. If you want to find out the items on the
agenda, phone the school council chair or other member which the school council has
designated to links with other parents in the school;
• ask for a description of committees, projects or tasks set up by the council and
volunteer to join one that you are interested in, or an activity that needs people to
serve; above all, ensure that you give your opinion on matters of the school that you
are interested in or concerned about at council meetings.
Many parents are able to support the school by helping the teacher or the principal with
special activities or projects. Schools value their volunteer activities because they
support programs and services and therefore help students to be successful.
Volunteer activities also benefit volunteers themselves by providing them with
opportunities to use their knowledge and skills. Volunteers also gain valuable experience
and satisfaction from helping others.
Volunteers cannot be used to perform activities that are the responsibilities of teachers
or other board employees, but must be limited to extra support activities. Volunteers
who work in the school on activities, which involve children, are required by law to
undergo a criminal background check. This is done in order to ensure the protection and
safety of students.
As a volunteer in the school you are required to maintain confidentiality about any
personal information about any student, staff or parent that you have access to.
Volunteers must also be aware of the Board’s human rights and equity policies. The
Board does not tolerate harassment or discrimination because of race, culture, language,
gender or sexual orientation. Volunteers must also report any incidence of violence or
abuse that they witness or are aware of.
If you want to volunteer for a classroom or school activity at your school please speak to
child’s teacher or your principal. Let your teacher or principal know about what you are
interested in, and the kind of skills and experience you have, that you think would be
helpful to the school.
Sample volunteer activities
to help the teacher or principal
• reading with a small group of children who need extra help
• arts and crafts activities
• school plays or concerts
• arranging material in the library
• coaching sports activities
• supervising children on field trips
• serving as a speaker on topics related to the classroom program
• serving as a skilled mentor to a student who needs extra support
• collecting community materials for a classroom project
• producing the school newsletter or handbook
Parents who serve on the school council and its activities are all volunteers. If you wish to
support the council by helping with tasks or projects, please contact the Chair of the
school council or the principal
Parent’s Role In the Special Education Process
Sometimes a parent or a teacher may observe that a child continues to have difficulty
with his or her learning. The teacher or the parent may request that the school do an
assessment of the student to determine whether there is a need for extra support for
the student. This is done by a committee of staff at the school referred to as the
“school support team”. The school support team collects information about the
student to provide an assessment. This is discussed with the parent.
The school team may decide that the student’s difficulties could be handled by some
extra classroom or school support, or may recommend that the child be considered
for special education services depending on the results of the assessment.
If your child is being considered for special education services, you will be invited to
participate in the process called an Identification, Placement and Review Committee
(IPRC). This IPRC will decide whether or not your child has any special learning needs
that require special support provided by specially trained teachers.
There are many kinds of special needs that children have which affect their learning.
These special needs are called “exceptionalities”. It is important to determine
exactly what kind of exceptionality the child has, so that the right kind of program or
service can be provided for the child. At least once each year, a committee of staff
reviews the identification and placement of the child with the parent, and decides
whether any changes are needed.
Once your child is placed in a special education program, an Individual Education Plan
(IEP) will be developed for your child. It is very important that you participate fully in
this process. The Individual Education Plan will state the specific educational
expectations for your child, and the specific programs and services that your child
will receive. It will also state how your child’s progress will be assessed.
If your child is 14 years or older the Individual Education Plan will outline a plan for
transition to post-secondary opportunities, including work.
When you are invited by the school to an IPRC meeting, you will receive a Parent’s
Guide to Special Education which provides a detailed description of the process and
your role in it.
If You Need An Interpreter
About 45% of Toronto students come from families who speak languages other than
English. There are over 80 languages represented in TDSB schools. Families of
Toronto students come from almost 200 countries of the world. Many parents are
often reluctant to communicate with teachers and principals because they don’t
speak or understand English well enough.
In some cases, there may be another adult family member in the home who
understands English who can assist by translating written information sent home by
the teacher or principal. Sometimes an English-speaking family member or friend is
available to assist by accompanying the parent to a meeting at the school and acting
as an interpreter. Schools however will attempt to provide the services of an
interpreter to help parents and schools communicate with each other.
Your role in the Special Education process includes:
• Participate in all meetings of the IPRC. Notify the principal if you are unable to attend;
• you may invite a support person to speak on your behalf or on your child’s behalf;
• be present when the IPRC makes a decision about your child;
• you will be provided with a written statement of the decision of the IPRC;
• you will be consulted when the Individual Education Plan is developed for your child;
• if you agree with the decision of the IPRC, you are required to sign the statement of
• if you do not agree with the IPRC decision, you may request a second meeting of the
IPRC to discuss your concerns, or may appeal the decision by writing to the Director of
Education at 5050 Yonge Street, Toronto, M2N 5N8, specifying the reasons for your
If you are invited to attend a meeting at the school and you are unable to bring an
interpreter with you, please inform the teacher or principal. The school will arrange
where possible, an interpreter for the meeting.
Finding Out More About The School System
The TDSB is a complex organization made up of 22 elected school board trustees who
are responsible for final policy decisions of the Board and an administration led by
the Director of Education, Associate Director of Education and their senior team of
supervisory officers called superintendents of education.
TDSB schools are divided into 24 administrative areas called families of schools. The
purpose of these administrative areas is to ensure that services which support schools
are provided efficiently and equitable for the whole school system. Each Family of
Schools is led by a Superintendent of Education who works closely with principals of
the schools in the Family to manage the provision of services to students.
The Board also employs many support staff in schools and administrative offices who
manage and provide the services necessary to support this large and complex school
The Board’s 22 trustees are elected by eligible voters in the city of Toronto every 3
years in the municipal elections which take place in November. Each trustee
represents an electoral area of the city called a ward. There are approximately 25
schools in each ward. In addition to regular communication with individual parents,
trustees periodically meet with school council representatives and other community
members in their ward to share information and consult with them on educational
In 1998, six independent school boards operating in what was at that time called
Metro Toronto, representing the former cities of Scarborough, North York, East
York, York, Etobicoke and the old city of Toronto, joined together to form one
school board, the Toronto District School Board.
The TDSB is the largest school district in Canada serving about 280,000 students in
565 schools in this culturally, socially economically diverse city of Toronto. The
TDSB has approximately 30,000 employees including about 18,000 teachers.
Trustees make the final decisions about education for all Toronto students and adult
learners in the Board’s schools and programs. Meetings of the full Board of Trustees
are held once each month. Trustees also participate regularly as members of the
Board’s sub-committees which are called Standing Committees, and other special
Parents and members of the community may request an opportunity to address the
trustees at Standing Committees or special committees on any matter on its public
agenda. Board meetings are held on evenings at the Board’s headquarters at 5050
Yonge St, and are open to the public.
It is very important to know the name of your school trustee. You can get the name of
your trustee from your child’s school office or by phoning the number below, or
through the TDSB web site: www.tdsb.on.ca.
For more information about the TDSB, contact:
• Your school office
• The office of the superintendent of education for your school (telephone number available
from your school office)
• Your school trustee (telephone number available by calling 416-397-3061, 397-3063, or
• Or visit the board’s web site at www.tdsb.on.ca